The only known Plain Edge 1907 $10 coin with Wire Rim, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens – and likely the only example of his coinage that he ever saw – is among the most historically important pieces in Heritage’s upcoming U.S. Coin auction.
It will be offered on Aug. 11, as part of the Official Auction of the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money in Boston, MA.
"At the turn of the 20th century, Augustus Saint-Gaudens was one of America’s most prominent artists," said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage. "In 1905, during Theodore Roosevelt’s second term, Roosevelt convinced Saint-Gaudens to redesign the two largest American gold coins: the ten dollar, or eagle, and the twenty dollar, or double eagle. The results made Saint-Gaudens one of the most famous American coinage artists and secured his lasting fame."
The coinage designs would be the artist’s final masterpieces. In July 1907, when Saint-Gaudens was going through the last stage of his terminal cancer, two early examples of the ten dollar coin were struck. The edges of these two coins were plain; later Wire Rim 1907 ten dollar coins have an edge design of 46 stars.
"The two Plain Edge coins were patterns, made to see how the coins looked," said Rohan. "They were the coinage equivalent of an artist’s proof. After the two Plain Edge coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint, they were split up."
One was sent to Treasury Secretary George B. Cortelyou, who forwarded it to the President, while the other was sent to Saint-Gaudens at his studio in New Hampshire. This was the only time Saint-Gaudens would see his work in coin form. He died on August 3, 1907, before further work could be done on either denomination.
Archived letters show that the coin Roosevelt saw was eventually sent back to the Mint, while the Saint-Gaudens coin disappears from the record. This coin’s history is largely unknown, and it is impossible to say with certainty whether it was sent to Roosevelt or Saint-Gaudens, but it is a coin of tremendous importance regardless of the answer.
Either it was sent to President Roosevelt, whose dedication to coinage redesign had been vital to the whole project; or it went to Saint-Gaudens, the artist who had spent more than two years bringing the President’s ambition to life.
"With the Roosevelt specimen being returned to the Mint, it seems more likely that this is the coin Saint-Gaudens saw," said Rohan. "The possibility is remarkably poignant: a great artist, just days away from death, gets a glimpse of his last major work. This could be the only Saint-Gaudens gold coin that he ever held."
The Plain Edge 1907 Wire Rim ten dollar is an important milestone in the history of both coinage and American art. It is listed as Judd-1902 or Pollock-1996 in the standard references and is the only example of the two that is known to have survived. The piece is certified as PR62 by NGC, a coin authentication and grading service.
About Heritage Auctions
Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.